The Problem With Kids Who Don’t Read
The main cause for concern with kids who would rather do anything else but read is that they won’t become proficient readers without enough time with their noses in books. Kids who can’t read well tend to do very poorly in life, no matter how you measure. That’s why literacy is a high priority for schools and it’s a high priority for homeschooling moms, too.
While there are audio and even visual Bibles, the most accessible way to take in God’s Word is to read it. As a Christian homeschooler, I hope that my children will have the reading skills they need to read the Bible and the will to read it, too, especially when they leave home. A lesser concern where reading is concerned is our desire to have adult children who read for pleasure. Reading is a great hobby that we want to pass on!
What if Your Child Would Rather Do Anything But Read?
Assess His Abilities
Most of the time, children who are reluctant to read find it challenging. Does your child have a visual impairment, attention deficits, or a learning disability that makes reading more work? Does she need to learn to read in a different way? My reluctant reader could not learn to read phonetically, though his three older siblings did. Once I let him learn to read using sight words (or a whole language approach), his reading took off. You may need an evaluation of your child, but read the rest of my suggestions first.
Ease Your Expectations
Because so much is riding on reading, we homeschoolers can overreact to any child who isn’t reading at grade level or just doesn’t like to read. I have heard numerous testimonies of children who were late readers but caught up with or exceeded their same age peers. I can tell you numerous similar stories of people who didn’t like to read as children, but are avid readers as adults. My husband, pictured above, is a great example. He seriously read Gone With the Wind just because he wanted to! When we are fearful, we can easily become impatient and even angry about reading. Our children pick up on our attitudes easily and soon you’re in a battle of wills or you’re dealing with a child who gives up because she feels she’s not a good reader.
Keep Reading to Your Child
I didn’t understand for a long time the incredible value of reading to children in terms of building a child’s reading skills. When you read books out loud that are above your child’s reading level, he is building a vocabulary that will enable his reading to take off when he’s developmentally ready. For example, if you read a word like appreciate out loud, even if your child doesn’t see the word, when she comes to it in a book one day, she’ll sound out uh-pr–appreciate. She will recognize the word easily from a few phonics and the context. Don’t have the time to read out loud as much as you’d like? Consider a Disney Interactive Books or Audible subscription so your child can be read to any time.
Make Reading Easy
Capstone Publishers has succeeded in large part because of its focus on creating high-interest, easy-to-read books–especially for boys. No longer are readers who are “behind grade level” saddled with baby books. There are easy-to-read books on nearly every subject. Graphic novels (like comic books in novel form) are particularly appealing to boys. Calvin and Hobbes (not a Capstone title) has gotten many a boy, including mine, to love reading. You can find this book and Capstone titles at a library near you. I recommend giving your child a book at or below his reading level and telling him, “I’m not sure if this is too difficult for you or not. Let me know, okay, and I’ll find one that’s easier.” What this does is help your child save face if it is in fact too hard, but more likely your child will be thrilled to tell you that it’s soooo easy to read! When your child’s confidence is up, motivating her is easy, too.
Make Reading Rewarding
There are lots of great ways to make reading fun. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Keep a steady supply of new books coming into your home. I’m married to a book salesman and new boxes of books are a source of Christmas-like excitement. You can create that kind of environment by regularly getting books from the library, Goodwill, or Paperbackswap. Ask any school librarian and she will tell you that she has to keep a steady supply of new books on the shelves to appeal to reluctant readers.
- Offer a reward. My husband has often offered a shake for a certain number of books read. Lots of reading goes on at those times. While you wouldn’t want your child to expect a treat every time he reads, an occasional reward will help him see reading as the real reward.
- Connect books to movies or games. Whether you offer to let your child see the movie version or play the related video game of a book before or after reading the book, this multimedia approach has been proven to promote reading.
- Let your child express his creativity around a book. My kids love to dramatize books for the family. Your child may enjoy doing show and tell about her favorite book, drawing pictures to go with it, or competing in a quiz bowl with a sibling who has read the same book.